Last week, accompanied by some dozen other Quebecois activists, I visited Fort McMurray, Alberta. This city, the global nerve centre of tar sands production, is a city like no other. What I saw and heard there moved me deeply, and the tragedy of Lac Megantic has only served to reinforce those feelings. I will be back.
The boom in oil fracking and tar sands has lured the great and small to the rails in search of profits and jobs.
The great include Bill Gates, who took time from the virtual world of software to acquire controlling interest in the Canadian National (CN) railroad, part of the real world of steel rails, mile-long trains and the rumble of linked diesel locomotives pulling tar sands oil out of Alberta.
The not so great, like Edmund Burkhardt, CEO of Rail World, which controls the short line "Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway," saw the boom in rail-transported petroleum as a way to make his mini-empire of short lines profitable.
Related rabble.ca story:
The tar sands are growing out of control, destroying the climate for all Canadians and poisoning the water of everyone living downstream. On July 5th and 6th, hundreds of people came together from coast to coast to join First Nations and Metis in the Healing Walk, a gathering focused on healing the environment and the people who are suffering from tar sands expansion. It was a powerful weekend of ceremony, information sharing, community and movement building.
There's a perverse irony at play in Windsorites' protests against the petcoke piles on neighbouring Detroit's shores.
For years, residents downwind from dirty coal-fired plants in Michigan and other Midwestern U.S. centres have been breathing nasty transboundary air pollution -- including the burning of petroleum coke, also known by its nickname 'petcoke'.